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A discussion draft of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2013 (FIRST) currently being circulated would impose significant barriers to the public’s ability to access to taxpayer funded research by restricting federal science agencies’ ability to provide timely, equitable, online access to articles and data reporting on the results of research that they support.
The proposed FIRST Act is not in the best interests of the taxpayers who fund the research, the scientists who make use of it by accelerating scientific progress, the teachers and students who rely on its availability for a high-quality education, and the thousands of U.S. businesses, both small and large, which depend on public access to stay competitive in the global marketplace.
One provision of the bill – Section 302 – would undercut federal agencies’ ability to effectively implement the widely-supported White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research, undermine the public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and put the U.S. at a severe disadvantage among our global competitors.
Every year, the federal government funds more than $60 billion dollars in basic and applied research. Most of this funding is concentrated within 11 departments/agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy). This research results in a significant number of articles being published each year – more than 90,000 papers are published annually as result of NIH funding alone.
Because U.S. taxpayers underwrite this research, they have a right to expect that its dissemination and use will be maximized, and that they will have access to articles reporting on the results. The Internet has revolutionized information sharing and has made it possible to make the latest advances freely available to every researcher, student, teacher, entrepreneur, business owner, and citizen so that the results can be read and built upon as efficiently as possible.
In February 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research, requiring the results of taxpayer-funded research — both articles and data — to be made available to the general public to freely access and fully use, with the goals of accelerating scientific discovery and fueling innovation.
As drafted, Section 302 of the FIRST Act would undercut this widely-supported Directive, as well as the highly-successful NIH Public Access Policy, which has made hundreds of thousands of articles in the biomedical sciences available through PubMed Central in a timely manner. In effect, the FIRST Act will make it more difficult for researchers, students, entrepreneurs, and the public to access cutting research — stifling innovation and slowing the progress of science.
Specifically, Section 302 of the proposed FIRST Act, under consideration by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would:
Instead of imposing roadblocks to public access, we should support federal agencies’ implementation of the White House Directive and the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act (H.R. 708/S. 350).
FASTR builds on the White House Directive by enabling the public to realize the full potential of public access – to accelerate scientific research, to generate innovation, and to spur economic growth and job creation. Specifically, FASTR codifies and advances key provisions of the Directive providing for: